eCommerce Fulfillment: Increase Your Success From Within

When it comes to a site’s success, internal processes are often seen as a secondary importance, and therefore, gets moved to the back of the priority bus. You ask most eCommerce Managers if they’d rather spend their limited time on improving their fulfillment process, or focusing on front-end user experience, what do you think most of them would say? Now please understand I do not want to undervalue the importance of everything front-end and customer facing. It’s the elements of your business that the customer’s don’t see, but are affected by, that often get overlooked, and can have a serious impact on your business. Let’s go over the biggies:

Warehouse/Order Fulfillment

This is the obvious one. You can’t make money if you don’t have items to sell. But nailing down the most efficient way to process orders and manage your warehouse can help you process orders more efficiently, save money on lost time & extra resources, and actually, improve your customer’s overall experience. Have you ever ordered something online, and had it take forever to get to you? Not the best experience, and let’s be honest, you’re not shopping there too often anymore. Here’re some tips to internal process:

– Picking products is key
Simple data like BIN and Rack numbers can be stored at the product level in most systems, and then printed on the pick slip. Save your people from running around the warehouse looking for stuff. If you have the ability, invest in a WMS (Warehouse Management System) that will allow you to do things like tub-picking, and build pick flows so that you can maximize timing.

– Process orders quickly
Don’t get stuck working in an OMS (Order Management System), a shipment fulfillment software, and your back end system to coordinate all of the data. I worked with a retailer once who had their warehouse team working in 4 systems to ship 1 order. That’s ludicrous. That’s like having your burger from one restaurant, your fries from another, and then driving across town for a Coke. Not the best way to do things. Invest in software that has it all included. Through ERP integration and fulfillment extensions like Canada Post, we have customers who’ve hundreds of orders pass through their warehouse, pick, packing, and shipping all orders through Magento. Life’s a lot easier when you are working from one spot.

– Order Review
Remove all guess work from processing. If an order hits your warehouse to be shipped, all of the checking should be done. Fraud checks, inventory availability checks, and anything else that needs to be reviewed should be done before it sees the warehouse floor. This will help move your fulfillment team along quickly.

Customer Service

customer service

Now this is clearly customer facing, but it’s an internal matter that needs to be thought about. How many you reading this post have ever called a retailer from whom you bought online, and got their general customer service. Someone who doesn’t know the web, or anything about it. It’s amazing to me that it’s 2o13 and this is still being done. I’ve said it before, your online customer and your in-store customer (if you have physical stores) are different. They don’t shop the same way, so why would you provide them the same service?

– Phone
When your eCommerce customer calls you, you should be ready to help them complete the transaction, or solve whatever issue they’re having so they come back and shop again. This involves having resources trained on your platform, and run through scenario training. There is a great tool in Magento that allows customer service to take over someone’s shopping cart in the admin, and complete the order for them. It’s helped save many lost carts.

– Email
Make sure you have your customer service emails responded to quickly. Sometimes the best trick is an automated one that notified the customer the email has been received, gives them a ticket number, and some troubleshooting tips they can try while waiting for a response.

– Live Chat
We’ve all been on a site where you see the option to chat with a rep live. There are great tools out there (eg. Olark) that plug into your site easily, and offer an offline message with contact info so you don’t have to worry about someone being there all the time. It’s the one element of the brick and mortar experience we can replicate online. If your customer is having trouble, and needs some help, being there in person to help them has proven to reduce abandoned carts and lost orders tremendously.

Product Content

I bring this up because while we all know having strong product content is great, people forget the biggest challenge here is internal resources holding us back. We want to launch 500 products but are waiting on images, descriptions, translation, etc, etc. The key thing here is to build a work flow. Each internal resource needs time allocated to complete their task, and a lead time. For example, in brick and mortar retailers, samples of items, which are often used for digital images, are moved around from the buying teams, to the stores, to merchandising, etc. Another example is product descriptions. Sometimes this content is written by someone outside the eCommerce team who knows the product, like a merchandiser. This is great, but time must be allocated to that resource in their week to make sure this gets done.

Strengthen Your Internal Weaknesses

If you ask one million merchants, not one of them will tell you their internal process is perfect. Chances are most will tell you it could use a lot of improvement. The key thing is to point out your weaknesses, the areas you realize you can improve on, and take the time and money to do so. It’s time and money you won’t see a direct return on, so executives are sometimes reluctant to get behind it, but I promise, it’ll pay for itself and then some. Remember, it’s the engine under the hood that wins the race.